From Eric Temple Bell’s Men of Mathematics:
All this [definition of “function” and substituting numbers for variables] is familiar to anyone whose grammar-school education ended not more than thirty or forty years ago, but some may have forgotten what they did in arithmetic as children, just as others could not decline the Latin mensa to save their souls.
Mensa, meaning table, can refer to the following:
- Mensa International is an organization for persons with high IQs.
- Mensa is a southern constellation.
- Mensa is a term used by geologists to refer to an extraterrestrial mesa.
- Mensa (restaurant) is a type of restaurant that specialises in cheap food for students.
I’m not sure whether any of these four meanings can fit the context. Maybe mensa was some kind of restaurant or school textbook?
I think the third meaning below may make sense:
- A table.
- A table of food; meal, course, feast.
- A sacrificial table, altar.
- vocative singular of mēnsa